Over many conversations of late I have heard of individual practices of gratitude, and how it has shapes the practitioner’s life. There are as many practices as there are those who practice. Gratitude lowers our stress because it changes our focus.
What we focus on makes a difference in our daily experience of life. Acknowledging our stressors is helpful, therapeutic even. It reminds us we are not alone. However allowing our focus to remain on our stress – unruly kids (or colleagues), the weathered roads or the amount of work – can set us up for short tempers, crabby comments, achy necks. Here is a Gratitude Practice that comes from Dr. Martin Seligman in his book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. It is perfect for this time of year.
“Close your eyes. Call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet face-to-face next week. Got a face?
Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them. But sometimes our thank you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless. In this exercise … you will have the opportunity to experience what it is like to express your gratitude in a thoughtful, purposeful manner.
Your task is to write a letter of gratitude to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words: be specific about what she did for you and how it affected your life. Let her know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember what she did. Make it sing! Once you have written the testimonial, call the person and tell her you’d like to visit her, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting; this exercise is much more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet her, take your time reading your letter.”
As we come up to the week of Thanksgiving I challenge you to practice gratitude in a different way this year.
* Remember someone special. * Honor them. * Tell them. *
You will be glad you did.
In thanksgiving for each of you,